“Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel.” Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, including the bestselling The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, and Three Daughters of Eve. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. She is published by Penguin/Random House and represented by Curtis Brown globally. She was awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better.

Shafak is also a political scientist and an academic. She holds a degree in International Relations, a masters’ degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a PhD in Political Science and Political Philosophy.  Her thesis on "Islamic Mysticism and the Circular Understanding of Time" was awarded by the Social Scientists Institute. She has taught at various universities in Turkey, the UK and the USA, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. 

Shafak is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women's rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. 

Shafak has been featured in and contributes to major newspapers and periodicals around the world, including the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel and La Repubblica.  She has been longlisted for the Orange Prize, MAN Asian Prize;  the Baileys Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award, and shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize

She judged numerous prestigious literary prizes, including Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (2013); Sunday Times Short Story Award (2014, 2015), Women of the Future Awards (2015); FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards (twice in 2015, 2016); Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (2016); Man Booker International Prize (2017) and The Goldsmiths Prize (2018). This year Shafak is judging the Berggruen Culture and Philosophy Prize, and chairs the Wellcome Book Prize.


— The Politics of Fiction

— Belonging and Identity: What Role Do Art and Literature Play for Redefining Women's Rights?

— Is There Room for Creativity in the Corporate World?

— Innovation/Creativlty in Today’s World

— The Art of Storytelling

— Bridging the Gap Between East and West

— Can tailor presentations for sponsor’s needs.

Awards and Special Recognitions:

  • Chair of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019 judging panel.
  • Honorary Fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University.
  • Patron of National Centre For Writing in Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature
  • Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in Comparative European Literature at Oxford
  • Berggruen Prize Juror for Philosophy & Culture
  • Judge for The Goldsmiths Prize 2018
  • Future Library Author 2017, Oslo, Norway
  • Caravan Award for Peacebuilding Through the Arts, 2017
  • Prize for Tolerance in Thinking and Acting, Prize of Honour of the Austrian Booksellers, 2017
  • Judge for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, 2017
  • Member of Berggruen Prize Award Committee
  • WOW committee member
  • Lahore Literary Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
  • Granted the Seal of the City and Certificate of Commendation by the City of Milan, 2016
  • 2016 GTF Award for Excellence in Promoting Gender Equality
  • Judge for 2017 Man Booker International Prize
  • Judge for FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2016
  • Judge for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction
  • Cultural Leader; Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy, Davos 2016
  • Judge for the 10th Women of the Future Awards, 2015
  • Judge for FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2015
  • Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015: Global Empowerment Award
  • The Architect's Apprentice, shortlisted for RSL Ondaatje Prize, 2015
  • The Architect's Apprentice, longlisted for Walter Scott Historical Novel Prize, 2015
  • Judge for Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, 2015
  • Board Member of Free Word Centre, which promotes literacy, literature and freedom of expression
  • Member of English PEN
  • Cultural ambassador for The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art/ BOZAR
  • Member of the judging panel for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award two consecutive years (2014, 2015)
  • Cultural Leader; Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy, Davos 2014
  • Member of the Folio Academy
  • Women To Watch Award, March 2014, Mediacat & Advertising Age
  • Honour (Crime d’honneur, Phébus), Prix du livre Lorientales 2014
  • Honour (Crime d’honneur, Phébus) le prix Escapades, 2014
  • Honour, Nominated (longlisted) for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2013
  • Turkish American Society Young Society Leader, 2013
  • Honour (Crime d’honneur, Phébus)2013 Prix Relay des voyageurs, France 2013
  • Honour, Longlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2013
  • Member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on The Role of Arts in Society
  • Member of the 2013 judging panel for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
  • Honour, Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2012
  • The Forty Rules of Love, Nominated (longlisted) for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2012
  • The Forty Rules of Love (Soufi, mon amour, Phébus), Prix ALEF - Mention Spéciale Littérature Etrangère, France 2011
  • Marka 2010 Award, Turkey
  • Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, France, 2010
  • TED Global speaker
  • Ambassador of Culture Action Europe Campaign, 2010
  • Special Envoy, EU-Turkey Cultural Bridges Programme, 2010
  • Turkish Journalists and Writers Foundation "The Art of Coexistence Award-2009"
  • International Rising Talent, Women's Forum - Deauville, France 2009
  • The Bastard of Istanbul, Longlisted for Orange Prize for Fiction, London 2008
  • Founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The Gaze, Longlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2007
  • Maria Grazia Cutuli Award - International Journalism Prize, Italy 2006
  • The Flea Palace, Shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, United Kingdom 2005
  • The Gaze, Union of Turkish Writers' Best Novel Prize, 2000
  • Pinhan, The Great Rumi Award, Turkey 1998



  • News 
  • Articles 
  • Reviews 
  • Interviews 

The Architects's Apprentice

Turkey’s preeminent female writer spins an epic tale spanning nearly a century in the life of the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul. As an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, he looks after the exceptionally smart elephant Chota and befriends (and falls for) the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces, dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among Sinan’s four apprentices.  A memorable story of artistic freedom, creativity, and the clash between science and fundamentalism, Shafak’s intricate novel brims with vibrant characters, intriguing adventure, and the lavish backdrop of the Ottoman court, where love and loyalty are no match for raw power.

The Saint Of Incipient Insanities

The American debut of prizewinning novelist Elif Shafak. Saint of Incipient Insanities is the comic and heartbreaking story of a group of twenty-something friends, and their never-ending quest for fulfillment.  Omer, Abed and Piyu are roommates, foreigners all recently arrived in the United States. Omer, from Istanbul, is a Ph.D. student in political science who adapts quickly to his new home, and falls in love with the bisexual, suicidal, intellectual chocolate maker Gail. Gail is American yet feels utterly displaced in her homeland and moves from one obsession to another in an effort to find solid ground. Abed pursues a degree in biotechnology, worries about Omer's unruly ways, his mother's unexpected visit, and stereotypes of Arabs in America; he struggles to maintain a connection with his girlfriend back home in Morocco. Piyu is a Spaniard, who is studying to be a dentist in spite of his fear of sharp objects, and is baffled by the many relatives of his Mexican-American girlfriend, Algre, and in many ways by Algre herself.  Keenly insightful and sharply humorous, The Saint of Incipient Insanities is a vibrant exploration of love, friendship, culture, nationality, exile and belonging that introduces us to a wonderful new voice in international fiction.

The Bastard Of Istanbul

As an Armenian American living in San Francisco, Armanoush feels like part of her identity is missing and that she must make a journey back to the past, to Turkey, in order to start living her life. Asya is a nineteen-year-old woman living in an extended all-female household in Istanbul who loves Jonny Cash and the French existentialists. The Bastard of Istanbul tells the story of their two families--and a secret connection linking them to a violent event in the history of their homeland. Filed with humor and understanding, this exuberant, dramatic novel is about memory and forgetting, about the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it, and about Turkey itself.

Black Milk

A thoughtful and incisive meditation on literature, motherhood, and spiritual wellbeing from Turkey's leading female author.  After the birth of her first child, Elif Shafak experienced a profound personal crisis. Plagued by guilt, anxiety, and bewilderment about her new maternal role, the acclaimed novelist stopped writing for the first time in her life. As she plummeted into post-partum depression, Shafak looked to the experiences of other prominent female writers—including Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, and Alice Walker—for help navigating the conflict between motherhood and artistic creation in a male-dominated society. Searingly honest, eloquent, and unexpectedly humorous, Black Milk will be widely embraced by writers, academics, and anyone who has undergone the identity crisis engendered by being a mother.

Three Daughters of Eve

In her new novel, one of Turkey's leading literary voices explores some of the most urgent and universal issues in today's world. This is a story about identity, politics, religion, women and God.  Peri, a young Turkish woman who grows up observing the clash between her father's lonely secularism and her mother's Islamic religiosity, earns a scholarship from Oxford University and arrives in England. She becomes friends with the charming Shirin, an atheist Iranian girl, and Mona, a headscarved Egyptian-American. It is an unlikely friendship among three very different girls from Muslim backgrounds. Her life changes dramatically when she meets the charismatic but controversial Professor Azur who teaches about God. Peri falls in love but it is a love that will bring an unexpected twist and a dark secret she carry for many years to come. By observing Peri's life in contemporary Istanbul, Shafak takes a close look at Turkey today and reveals the problems that society hides within.  This courageous, rich and ambitious novel will resonate with many readers all around the world and raise important discussions.

Elif Shafak: TEDtalk: "The Politics of Fiction"

Elif Shafak explicitly defies definition — her writing blends East and West, feminism and tradition, the local and the global, Sufism and rationalism,

Elif Shafak - 40 Rules of Love - A Storytellers View

Speaking on The Power of Storytelling and the (unifying) impact words can have on people.

Elif Shafak & Viviane Reding: Sense and Sensibility - A Conversation Beyond Borders

Elif Shafak in conversation with Viviane Reding, a member of the European Parliament (DLDwomen 2014).

Elif Shafak - "East, West, and Global Souls"

The keynote speaker at the 2011 Campagna-Kerven Lecture, Boston University.

Blurbs: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

'One of the best writers in the world today'
Hanif Kureishi 

'Haunting, moving, beautifully written - and based by an extraordinary cast of characters who capture the diversity of modern Turkey. A masterpiece
 Peter Frankopan

'Simply magnificent, a truly captivating work of immense power and beauty, on the essence of life and its end.'
Philippe Sands

'One of the most important writers at work today'

'A vivid carnival of life and death, cruelty and kindness, love, politics and deep humanity. This is only possible in the hands of a consummate storyteller. Elif Shafak's lyrical command of language and narrative is breathtaking. Brilliant!'
Helena Kennedy

'Elif Shafak brings into the written realm what so many others want to leave outside. Spend more than ten minutes and 38 seconds in this world of the estranged. Shafak makes a new home for us in words'
Colum McCann 

'Elif Shafak's extraordinary 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World is a work of brutal beauty and consummate tenderness'
Simon Schama

'A rich, sensual novel... This is a novel that gives voice to the invisible, the untouchable, the abused and the damaged, weaving their painful songs into a thing of beauty.'
Financial Times

2019 Interviews:

The Indian Express
“The novel is one of our last democratic spaces”

The Telegraph
In Elif Shafak's world

The Hindu
Elif Shafak’s ‘10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World’: The martyr of Istanbul

OPEN magazine
“I defend a pluralistic, liberal democracy”

The Worldpost
Polarization Plays Into the Hands of Populist Demagogues

Spiegel Online
Interview on Istanbul

Toast Magazine
A Life Less Ordinary

BBC Radio 4 Extra
Telling Tales

Thought Economics
A Conversation with Elif Shafak

Toast Podcast
Style & Stories

Who is 'we the people'? Elif Shafak - Questions and Answers Session

The Guardian
Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist

The Jakarta Post
Extremists polarize humanity, storytellers do exact opposite

National Centre for Writing
Elif Shafak and Bidisha talk #MeToo

New Statesman

Vanity Fair London
Ten Questions with Elif Shafak

Exponential View
Overcoming the Epistemic Crisis: Elif Shafak in Conversation with Azeem Azhar

2019 Articles:

15.07.2019: The Guardian
“Police officers demanded to see my books”: Elif Shafak on Turkey's war on free-speech

16.06.2019: Tortoise Media
We Go Again

12.06.2019: Newstatesman
Elif Shafak’s Diary

25.05.2019: The Guardian
The book that changed my mind

17.05.2019: New York Vulture
Elif Shafak’s 10 Favorite Books

06.05.2019: The Guardian
From Spain to Turkey, the rise of the far right is a clash of cultures not civilisations

30.04.2019: Women in Leadership
Time For Global Sisterhood

The Guardian
To understand the far right, look to their bookshelves

20.03.2019: Brexit
New Statesman special issue

12.03.2019: Young Writer Award
What I wish I had known

01.02.2019: National Centre for Writing
Elif Shafak introduces her selection of 10 exciting women writers in the UK


14.12.2018: The Vanity Fair
Elif Shafak: Travels of a Linguistic Nomad

10.12.2018: The Guardian
It’s not just Europe – toxic imperial nostalgia has infected the world

05.10.2018: New Statesman
Why the novel matters in the age of anger

01.10.2018: Literary Hub
Elif Shafak on Ways of Knowing and the Women in Her Life – A Granddaughter Remembers

01.10.2018: Vogue India
11th Anniversary Special / Geography

03.09.2018: The Guardian
Even as Turkey pulls away, the west must hold Turkish people close

27.01.2018: The Guardian
Further reading: Elif Shafak on books to change your mind

12.01.2018: The Guardian
Nations don’t always learn from history


The Guardian on Three Daughters of Eve:

A rich journey into romance and religion

05.02.2017 The Times:

A sweeping tale of friendship and faith set in Istanbul and Oxford

04.02.2017  The Book Eaters:

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

03.02.2017 Financial Times

Competing visions of Islam clash in a desperately topical novel of ideas

30.01.2017 Lonesomereader:

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak


01.11.2016: Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ):

Elif Shafaks Roman Der Geruch des Paradieses: Nur die Suche zählt

23.10.2016: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

Elif Shafak auf der Buchmesse Patriarchat für Fortgeschrittene (about the presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair)

19.02.2016: Libros y literature

El arquitecto del Universo, de Elif Shafak

26.01.2016: The Oxford Culture Review

Elif Shafak on ‘Writing in a World of Political Unrest’


31.07.2015: The Architect's Apprentice

Het witte olifantje

23.06.2015 The Washington Post

Painting a vibrant and lush portrait of the 16th-century Ottoman Empire

08.06.2015 The New York Times

The Architect’s Apprentice,’ by Elif Shafak

12.05.2015 Seattle Times

The Architect’s Apprentice’: a boy and an elephant in Istanbul

04.04.2015 Winnipeg Free Press

Incredible, imperfect Istanbul

31.03.2015 Book Page

The Architect's Apprentice

31.03.2015 Bookriot

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak

02.03.2015 Publishers Weekly

The Architect's Apprentice

01.03.2015 House of SpeakEasy

The Argument from Design

10.01.2015 The Spectator

Bish bash Bosphorus: Elif Shafak’s saga of love and death in Istanbul is crammed with incident on every page

03.01.2015 Thee Press and Journal

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak

01.01.2015 World Literature Today

The Architect's Apprentice


27.12.2014 The Telegraph

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak, review: 'atmospheric and languorous'

20.12.2014 The Independent on Sunday

City stars in its own story

06.12.2014 Asian Review of books

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak

05.12.2014 World Literature Today

A Boy and His Elephant: A Review of The Architect’s Apprentice, by Elif Shafak

22.11.2014 The Guardian

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak – old Istanbul brought to life

13.11.2014 The National

Book review: Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice

09.11.2014 The Guardian

The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak review – architecture as metaphor for building lives

07.11.2014 Financial Times

‘The Architect’s Apprentice’, by Elif Shafak

30.10.2014 The Independent

The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak, book review: The domes of discovery

07.04.2014 Tages-Anzeiger

Politisch, aber nicht überpolitisiert

18.01.2014 The Age Entertainment

The maternal and a mystery

07.01.2014 Sunday's Zaman

Elif Şafak pays homage to Mimar Sinan and love of learning in new book

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